443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in World War II

SICILIAN CAMPAIGN

REORGANIZATION OF THE 443RD

The 443rd was given first priority for ordnance and vehicle inspection and overhaul by the 67th Ordnance Battalion. This was accomplished amid rumor and speculation that the 443rd was "hot" for another campaign. So it was no surprise when, after only one week in Trapani the Battalion, on 30 August, was relieved from the 3rd Infantry Division and moved the same day to the vicinity of Partinico where it was attached to the 2nd Armored Division. Several platoons had to be left behind for a few days to complete their ordnance overhaul but the rest of the Battalion set up a perimeter defense of the 2nd Armored’s bivouac along the coast road.

Then events moved rapidly. On 8 September the Provisional Corps of the 7th Army ordered the 443rd to move on 10 September to the vicinity of Termini Imerese, relieved from attachment to the 2nd Armored and attached to the 34th AAA Brigade, alerted for future operations. Lt. Col. Larson reported to Brigade Headquarters in Palermo and the 443rd was placed under tactical control of the 105th AAA Group. Batteries A and B moved to the perimeter defense of the East and West Termini airfields while Batteries C and D began training and maintenance programs.

The day after arriving in the new area, orders from Headquarters, 7th Army, relieved the 443rd from its assignment to the 7th Army and assigned it to the Fifth Army — Italy, effective 14 September. Rumor had it that General Patton had assigned the 443rd to the 2nd Armored Division for transfer to Britain and the Normandy invasion but the Mediterranean Theater Command would not approve the transfer. As a result, the 443rd was scheduled to invade Italy at Salerno with the 36th Infantry Division but due to lack of time to overhaul and regroup, assignment did not occur until after the 9 September Landing at Salerno. That landing was bitterly and almost successfully opposed by German defenders under General Kesselring. It took seven days for the Salerno beachhead to be secured.

On 12 September the 7th Army Antiaircraft officer sent a memorandum to his ordnance officer to draw in from the 443rd all gun-tracks T-28-E1 in excess of 32 and to issue 32 new gun-tracks M-13 with two .50 cal. machine guns per mount, with powered turrets. The order also included turn-in of all Battalion vehicles in excess of 35 - 2 ton trucks, 18 M-3 personnel carriers, 94 1 ton trailers, 19 ton trucks, 5 ton weapons carriers and 1 ton command car. New Tables of Organization had finally caught up with the 443rd.

The same evening, Lt. Col. Larson met with two colonels of the Fifth Army’s Rear Link in Termini Imerese, to discuss the changes. He pointed out that replacing the T-28-E1s with M-13s would greatly reduce the Battalion’s fire power, an essential component of effective AA fire. This discussion resulted in a telegram being sent to Headquarters, North African Theater of Operations (NATOUSA) stating the circumstances and recommending that no change of armament be made at that time. No reply had been received by 17 September when a radiogram from CG Fifth Army to CG Seventh Army requested that the 443rd be equipped with both the M-13 and the M-15 (twin 40 mm) gun-tracks before leaving Sicily. Since no M-15s were available it was necessary that 32 T-28-E1 gun-tracks be retained. And since no other unit had T-28-E1s, Lt. Col. Larson on 18 September submitted a request for permission to take the Battalion’s 21 excess T-28-Els to Italy for use as replacements and for spare parts during the coming campaign. Approval of this request came on 19 September. On 20 September excess vehicles were turned in to ordnance and 32 M-13 gun-tracks were received. At the same time 32 SCR 610 radios were procured for installation in the T-28-E1 gun-tracks. This was accomplished in two days.

Because the new T/O E (44-7S) with its reduction in equipment necessitated a reduction in personnel, the line batteries were reorganized from four to two platoons, each with four M-13s and four T-28-E1s. On 23 September, five 443rd officers and ninety-two enlisted men of the Battalion were transferred to other antiaircraft organization and headquarters units within the brigade. To accomplish the above reorganization the 443rd was on 23 September relieved from responsibility for defense of the Termini airfields. On the following day, remaining radios authorized were received. Due to unavailability of the SCR 500 series, SCR-600s were substituted.

MOVEMENT TO ITALY

The 443rd began its movement to Italy on 13 October when Battery A loaded vehicles on LSTs at the Termini docks. Most of the personnel boarded LCIs. Landing was on 15 October at Bagnoli, northwest of Naples in the Fifth Army staging area. The next day saw the remainder of the Battalion’s command and combat vehicles loading for departure two days later. When, at the last minute, their projected overland movement across the Messina Straits was cancelled, Battalion Headquarters Rear and Headquarters Sections of Batteries B, C, and D also loaded for sea transport

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